We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget...

Age: 
35-45
Budget: R100 000-120 000
Status: parent of three
Vehicle type: MPV with six or seven seats

Requirements

This parent needs something with space for them and their spouse, children plus luggage, and at least one spare seat in case a friend joins on trips. The vehicle should be reasonably economical, with front-wheel drive for maximised interior space. Some luxury would be appreciated, too.

The vehicle

We have chosen one six-seater MPV and two with seven seats. All are spacious, well designed and comfortable, with between 1,8- and 2,0-litre engine capacities. The reliability of their powertrains is arguably the best in the market, so we've selected vehicles with high mileages to meet the price cut-off.

Our choice: Honda FR-V 1,8

0-100 km/h: 11,18 sec
Top speed: 190 km/h
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 174 N.m
CO2: 232 g/km
CAR fuel index: 9,96 L/100 km

Honda FR-V
All three choices are top-notch, but we've opted for the FR-V because of its mix of sufficient seating capacity (three chairs across two rows) and generous luggage room. It was facelifted in 2007 and the comfortable seats and logical ergonomics add to the driving enjoyment. At the time of the revision, a 1,8-litre engine replaced the 2,0-litre.

The manual gearbox has six gears, while the automatic is a five-speeder with the lever placed close to the steering wheel and clear of the centre seat. For the same reason, the twist-handle handbrake lever is located under the dashboard.

The rear seats can be folded flat into the floor, which is useful when carrying large items. And, at 1,81 metres, the FR-V is wider than the others to allow for the three-plus-three seating, and there is no discomfort for middle-seat occupants as all six seats are the same size. With this arrangement, a full boot capacity is always available, allowing 336 dm3 of luggage space even with six occupants. If the Mazda and Toyota's seven seats are occupied, they offer only 88 and 120 dm3 of luggage room.

Six airbags and ABS add to the safety spec, while cosseting cloth upholstery is comfortable in extreme climates. Cleaning cloth can be a problem, so consider a spray of Scotchguard.

Space: 6 seats, 336/1 350 dm3
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD/BAS
Cost of tyres: R5 204
Road test: July 2007

Option 2: Mazda5 2,0 Active

0-100 km/h:  10,99 sec
Top speed: 195 km/h
Power: 107 kW
Torque: 185 N.m
CO2: 220 g/km
CAR fuel index: 9,48 L/100 km

Mazda5
We were suitably impressed when the first Mazda5 arrived for testing at our offices, especially with its unique-in-this-company dual sliding side doors, which allow brilliantly easy access, especially when parked in confined spaces. Cloth seating is provided on this Active model, while the more expensive Individual has leather trim. Flip-up trays are fitted to the front-seat backrests and the centre row of three seats slides on rails to adjust legroom at the rear.

The rear seats also fold into the floor to provide a boot space of 312 dm3 with maximum legroom for the middle-row occupants. The centre seat of the middle row is smaller and can be converted into an armrest for a two-plus-two-layout. The steering system is quicker than on the others' (although all have progressive steering feel thanks to hydraulic power assistance) and the six-speed manual gearbox that was introduced in 2008 has wonderfully slick shifts.

The fuel index of the latter model is slightly better than the previous five-speeder at 9,48 L/100 km, but it takes longer to reach 100 km/h. Due to Mazda suspending sales of the 5 in mid-2016, the resale value will take a knock, but retail book values presently are high. If you need to save some cash, the five-speed models are more affordable.

Space: 7 seats 88/472/1 336 dm3
Safety and aids:  8 airbags,  ABS/EBD
Cost of tyres: R5 352
Road test: July 2007 (5-spd) July 2008 (6-spd)

Option 3: Toyota Verso 180 TX
0-100 km/h: 11,35 sec
Top speed: 196 km/h
Power: 95 kW   
Torque: 170 N.m
CO2: 220 g/km
CAR fuel index: 9,47 L/100 km

Toyota Verso
Thanks to the popularity of the Toyota badge and an excellent dealer network, the Verso remains a sought-after buy. The only negative, however, is the price. Expecting to find a large number of used examples, we found only one within our budget and thereafter, prices shot up. If you are set on a Toyota, be prepared to possibly stump up another R20 000 to close a deal. Still, you'll get a sunroof on the TX, together with tinted glass, although visibility for the passengers is not great due to the shallow glass area.

Unlike the others that have space-saver spare tyres under boot boards, the Verso stores its spare under the body. Two Isofix child-seat anchor points are fitted, and ABS with EBD are standard. Complementing the front, side and curtain airbags is a knee bag for the driver, bringing the total to seven.

Although these vehicles have relatively modern, efficient engines, the Verso pips the rest with the lowest fuel consumption of 9,47 L/100 km. Thanks to the superior dealer network, most are well maintained by agents and have a full service history, but make sure that no oil changes have been missed; clean oil is a must for modern engines with variable valve timing. The service interval for all three vehicles is 15 000 km.

Space: 7 seats, 64/444/1 488 dm3
Safety and aids:  7 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of tyres: R5 188
Road test: July 2007

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